Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer 2014 Camping Adventure

We wanted to go on a nice little adventure this summer without breaking the bank, a road trip that would satisfy our wanderlust but still accommodate our little ones.  We decided on a camping trip in one of Louisiana's majestic state parks, only a couple hours away from home but plenty of opportunities to explore and experience new things.  We rented a cabin deep in the woods, all the comforts of home for the babies but still rustic and simple. My aunt and uncle and cousins came with us, renting their own cabin close to ours. We had the whole park to ourselves for the first few days as most of the other campers didn't arrive until the weekend.  It was so quiet and peaceful, the landscape so beautiful it just took my breathe away every time I walked outside.

Brees and River stuck to their typical early bird schedules, waking up at dawn and begging to go outside as soon as they opened their eyes.  We had our breakfast on the screened in porch every morning, watching for squirrels and rabbits and birds.  There is no better medicine for a working mama's soul than getting to spend uninterrupted quality time with your babies for a full week of vacation.


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We rode our bikes to the lake and went fishing all afternoon, the kids scaring the fish off more than luring them in.  We spotted a family of alligators on the other side of the lake and a couple of snakes, too. 


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We cooled off at the splash pad that was just a short bike ride away from our cabin.  

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We went on lots of great hikes, from rough terrain to landscaped boardwalks through the swamp. Our kids were such troopers, putting in literally miles that week through every trail we brought them on.  I made scavenger hunts for them on the longer hikes to keep them busy and they had a blast finding all of the random things on my list: bullfrogs, alligator eggs (we actually found some!), various wildflowers...   It was the perfect way to let them burn off all their energy!


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The kids took epic naps thanks to all of the activity and the grown ups took a few naps, too.  A true luxury! I even read a book!  And Shawn and I got to spend some nice quiet time together on the porch, just talking and drinking tea and enjoying the peaceful surroundings.  It was so relaxing and rejuvenating.

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The older cousins watched the babies for us one afternoon so that Shawn, my aunt and uncle, and I could take Isabelle and Sarah on a canoe trip.  We paddled up the Tickfaw River for several hours, one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.  The girls were so happy to have us all to themselves, a little adventure to call their own.  We spotted tons of wildlife on that canoe trip, Louisiana swamp creatures around every turn.  


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River stuck with me on a bike trail that was a couple of miles longer than I had expected.  It was rough and tough and there were some places that I had to get off the bike and push us through fallen trees and muddy waters.  We made it, though, my little buddy and I.  He is such a trooper, smiling his way through our great outdoor adventure.

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On the way home, after everything was all packed up and we reluctantly said goodbye to our week in the woods, Isabelle said, "I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life!".  And you know what?  She will. It was everything that childhood should be: simple, inspiring, and stimulating.  Days full of activity, nights spent talking around the fire.  Good quality family time with no distractions.  Funny moments we'll never forget like the very big and very brave raccoon who snuck onto our porch and tried to steal our s'mores.  Or teaching Brees how to pop a squat behind a tree right as a group of boyscouts hiked right past us.  Or Shawn getting chased by a bee as we tried to take this picture but not even flinching because he didn't want to have to take the picture AGAIN.

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It was an incredible trip with lifelong memories made for our family and I am so thankful for the time we were able to spend together!

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Monday, July 7, 2014

July the Fourth

This fourth of July was the first fourth of July holiday in a LONG time that no one in our family was working, pregnant, having surgery, etc (knocking on every piece of wood in sight).  We were home with a beautiful, relaxing long weekend ahead of us and decided to celebrate with a BBQ for our big family.  Even the weather was in our favor, gracing us Louisianians with some VERY abnormal July temperatures in the 80's, cool breeze and all.  Shawn and I made a big meal using the overabundance of veggies we've harvested from our garden this week: quinoa pasta salad with fresh basil and broccoli, tomatoes and cucumbers with a lemon and white vinegar dressing, veggie shish kabobs with peppers, squash, and zucchini, and, of course, good ole' fashioned hamburgers and hot dogs.  There was cantaloupe and watermelon for dessert and a red velvet birthday cake for my sweet aunt.  It was such a delicious summer meal out on the back patio, everyone talking and eating and relaxing.  I feel so very proud when I am able to serve such good food right from my backyard.  There is nothing more satisfying than spending a day in the kitchen and creating such a healthy, hard earned feast.

The kids swam and played the way that kids do in the late summer evenings.  My girls basically live in their swimsuits these days.  The babies crawled around in the grass and I was so thankful to get some good quality time in with my cousins.  We set up our chairs as soon as the sun went down and prepared for an epic fireworks display courtesy of Shawn and my uncle. They completely outdid themselves this year, shooting off one beautiful firework after another as we all cheered. The girls all danced through the yard with sparklers, Isabelle screaming, "Mom, we look like fairies!!!".  We ended the night with a game of darts that lasted until well after midnight, old country songs blasting on the stereo and my stomach hurting from laughing so hard.  It was a good time with good people, the kind of gathering that makes my heart happy and full.


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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Brain Dump

I promised myself that I wouldn't go to bed tonight until I took a few moments to write some things down. Who has time for memory keeping these days?  Not me, despite my best intentions. But my photos are collecting and my thoughts are bursting and why bother getting all snug as a bug in bed when River will most likely wake up as soon as I do, right?  So, here goes a little brain dump for you on this lovely Wednesday evening:

My new job is going splendidly well!  I love the people, I love the management, I love how organized and efficiently everything is run.  Those are elements I've been yearning for in my professional life and it is inspiring to show up to a well oiled machine everyday.  The new job has meant a new routine for all of us, however, as my work hours are a bit different with all of the orientation and getting acquainted business. Mad props to Shawn for holding down the fort while I get into my (our) new routine.  The stay at home parent definitely bears the brunt of the blow during times like these and I am thankful for the way that he has stepped in when I can not. I look forward to getting home even more these days, with the garden in all of its glory and the weather just perfect for all things outdoors.  No matter how tired we all are with the craziness of the last few weeks on our shoulders, the promise of summer and all of its freedom makes the stress just melt away.

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Speaking of summer, we've been living in the water every chance we get.  River is a water loving baby times one thousand. Shawn picked up a little baby pool to put next to the big pool and River and Brees have made that $10 contraption the best investment ever.  I love to set up shop in my lounge chair and just watch them play, splashing around and giggling like crazy.  Brees refuses to get into the big pool this year no matter how hard we try to coerce her.  "I like my baby pool!" she tells us in her decisive way.  And so the little pool it is, a big fish in a small pond.


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That last photo shows a glimpse of another project that's been keeping us busy: a little makeover for the front of our house that's been four years in the making.  For the last 9 months, we've been painting, demolishing, repairing, uprooting, replanting, etc. to get the quaint modern cottage feel of our dreams.  It's almost ALMOST done, just a walkway to put into place and few more details to perfect.  It's so nice to have a real, usable front porch space.

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Isabelle has successfully completed the fourth grade!  It has been a rewarding school year filled with learning, good friends, and tons of activities. She was placed in a more challenging dance class this year and really took her talent to the next level. She worked really hard in math and brought her grades way up thanks to a lot of hours at the kitchen table, practicing and studying. She recently performed in her first piano recital, so confident and graceful behind that baby grand on the big stage.  My heart was in my throat as she played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow",  a piece she played over and over in the living room as we all praised her. She is such a go getter, always willing to try something new and put herself out there.  I admire her tenacious spirit so much.  She says that she wants to be a special education teacher when she grows up and I can totally picture her as an art therapist working with kids in need.  There's something so special about her and it is a beautiful think to watch her grow.


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Brees has been busy learning how to write her name, creating art projects with the finger paints the Easter Bunny left for her, and tending to her garden.  Here she is in typical Brees fashion, all blurry and busy and up to something.  On this night, I caught her outside in her nightgown and rubber boots well after bath time. She swiped the top of a pineapple from the compost because she wanted to plant it in her garden "so that the kids can have some fruit". She is the funniest, most vivacious little character and I love to be around her. She makes me laugh every single day and truly reminds me to just let it go.  Every day is an adventure with my female version of Huckeberry Finn.


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We are really lucky, Shawn and I, to have such great kids.  Not a day goes by that I don't remind myself of that.  They love each other so much and are constantly showing love, looking out for each other, supporting each other.  Belle can't get 10 feet away without Brees asking, "Where's Sissy?  Is she okay?'.  Belle is always clucking after her brother and sister like a little mama hen and River thinks she hung the moon.  The three of them just click, they move together in a very soulful way that makes me feel so blessed every time I'm around them.  They understand the concept of family, the hard work that goes into it but, more importantly, the reward that awaits when you love big.  I pray that the three of them always look to each other for love and support, that they always know how blessed they are to have each other.

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